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GOP health bill ‘to help poor, elderly’

WASHINGTON

US House Republicans are working on changes to their healthcare overhaul bill to provide more generous tax credits for older Americans and to add a work requirement for the Medicaid programme for the poor, US House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Sunday.

Ryan said Republican leaders still plan to bring the healthcare bill to a vote on the House of Representatives floor on Thursday. Speaking on the “Fox News Sunday” television programme, he added that leaders were working to address concerns that had been raised by rank-and-file Republicans to the legislation.

“We think we should be offering even more assistance than the bill currently does,” for lower-income people age 50 to 64, Ryan said of the tax credits for health insurance that are proposed in the legislation.

Ryan also said Republicans are working on changes that would allow federal block grants to states for Medicaid.

Even as Ryan said he felt “very good” about the health bill’s prospects in the House, a leading conservative lawmaker told the C-Span “Newsmakers” programme that there were currently 40 Republican “no” votes in the House. Republicans hold a majority in the chamber but cannot afford to have over 21 defections for the measure to pass.

Representative Mark Meadows, the chairman of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus, said the bill would “absolutely not” pass the way it is now.

Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, also said the changes being considered for the Medicaid program would not go far enough, if they left it up to states to decide whether to put in place a work requirement.

An optional work requirement for Medicaid would be “a step backwards, not a step forwards,” Meadows said in an appearance on C-Span’s “Newsmakers.”

If the healthcare bill were to pass the House, it also would face significant challenges in the Senate.

Agencies